"God with Us" in Roseland

December 06, 2023 • English

Dec1 Ms Arlene 1

The Roseland community in Chicago takes center stage in December’s Today devotions, featuring stories from individuals in the Roseland community and an invitation to readers to see God at work in their own community.

The devotions, titled “God with Us,” were written by Joe Huizenga, pastor of Roseland Christian Ministries, a women’s shelter, food pantry, and gathering place for Sunday worship.

"I think Joe's choice of 'God with Us' serves as a poignant reminder about God's presence with us during the Christmas season and throughout the year,” Jeff Bulthuis, Today’s managing editor said. “We celebrate in Jesus' incarnation that God is with us; these stories from the Roseland community help us to see that God is with us in ways that many readers have never considered."

Roseland’s Impact on Today

The connection between Roseland and our ministry dates back to 1954 when Dick Van Eck generously donated a used car dealership in the Roseland neighborhood. The building became the central office of the ministry for 22 years.

“The Today devotional really flourished during our time in Roseland,” said Robin Basselin, co-director of ReFrame’s English ministry. Created as a follow-up resource for our original Back to God Hour radio program, Today grew during those years to become an established ministry of evangelism and discipleship in its own right. The Roseland community not only housed but also supported ReFrame and the Today devotional during a critical time in our ministries’ development.”

As ReFrame continued to grow in size and scope during the early 1970’s—adding several non-English ministries and entering television ministry—the ministry proposed a move to Chicago’s suburbs. While there were several practical reasons for making the move, it also perpetuated the shameful trend of white flight from Roseland and other Chicago neighborhoods that were becoming more racially diverse.

Ultimately, ReFrame’s leaders decided to move its offices to Palos Heights, Illinois, under the instruction of our governing body, to “exercise every means to find a user or users for the present building [in Roseland] who will use the building for a Christian ministry in the neighborhood…This would maintain the CRC presence in the same neighborhood.”**

In 1976, Pastor Tony and Donna Van Zenten began doing ministry out of the parking lot of ReFrame’s old Roseland location. This was the humble beginning of Roseland Christian Ministries, which continues to “care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of Chicago's Roseland community.”

Today’s Impact in Roseland

Every two months, about 400 Today booklets arrive at Roseland Christian Ministries. From there, they are distributed to those who visit the food pantry and to other individuals who are seeking hope and connection at the ministry center.

"Sometimes the Today becomes that one branch you can grab onto,” Huizenga said. “That may not be the case for everyone here, but it's there as a branch in every food pantry line."

Mrs. Davis* is usually one of the first people to take a devotional booklet. Huizenga explained, "For her, there's so much addiction and trauma in her family and community that she deals with day in and day out. Her daily devotions are what anchor her day by day. Today is how she starts her day. That anchors her for what in many days feels like a storm."

Another woman in the community has found her own unique way to share the blessings she receives from the Today devotional. She cuts out the prayers from the booklet and hands them out to people she encounters in grocery stores and on the streets, aiming to offer a bit of spiritual comfort to those she meets.

“Roll the Window Down”

Inspired by these stories, and those of others in the Roseland community, the December devotions encourage readers to "roll the window down" in their own neighborhoods, offering a message of hope, love, and connection during this Christmas season.

“In the devotions, I wanted to take people into the neighborhood that I fell in love with,” Huizenga added. “God already exists in the community, he wasn’t brought to it. Emmanuel. God with us.”

The Roseland community continues to be an essential part of ReFrame Ministries' history, and the partnership between the two has fostered a unique connection that continues today.

“The December devotions aim to honor this connection and inspire readers to find their own ways to embrace God's presence in their communities,” added Basselin.

*Name changed for privacy

**From the Acts of Synod 1974

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